Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Women's and children's health at the UN General Assembly

Women’s and children’s health this year was again at the center of the UN General Assembly events. This is a short recap of the main events and outcomes for health and health MDGs during the UN General Assembly in September 2012.

Accountability for women’s and children’s health

A number of events throughout the week focused on accountability and progress of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.

Sunday 23rd

Keeping Promises, Measuring Results. How are we measuring up?

This event was aimed at sharing the latest evidence on accountability, through the findings of the 2012 Countdown Report to 2015, focused on equity and financial flows of ODA for MNCH. The latest PMNCH report describing the commitments to date to the Global Strategy was presented.

The main conclusions and recommendations arrived at by the independent Expert Review Group, informed by the Countdown the 2012 PMNCH Report, the H4+ and others were shared with the audience. An interactive discussion on how to achieve greater accountability ensued, with overall agreement that existing frameworks for accountability must be strengthened and the collaborative efforts between partners continue to ensure that promises are kept and progress is achieved.

Wednesday 26th

UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children and the UN Commission for Information and Accountability Commission

The Deputy Secretary-General received on behalf of the UN Secretary General two major reports linked to the Global Strategy and the Every Woman Every Child movement:

1) The final report of the Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children and implementation plan. The Commission on Life-Saving commodities was created to overcome the challenge of saving lives through improving equitable access to lifesaving commodities.

Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister or Norway, Goodluck Jonathan, President of Nigeria, and Scott Sherriff, Senior Vice President & Head of Women’s Healthcare at Bayer were joined by President Bill Clinton to announce a new commitment, whereby through volume guaranteed purchases, Bayer will be supplying contraceptive implants (one of the commodities recommended by the Commission) at 50% of the price.

2) The first annual report of the independent Expert Review Group (iERG). This is the first of four reports which, as recommended by the Commission on Information and Accountability for women’s and children’s health, will be presented to the UN SG until 2015 to analyse progress on the implementation of the commission’s recommendations.

The iERG noted that progress was on track on a number of recommendations, while on others progress is too slow. The iERG made a clear set of recommendations and called for a global governance framework and a global investment framework, as well as for stronger priority setting at the country level.

Advancing the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health

Monday 24th

UN H4+ High –Level Breakfast Meeting

At a breakfast event on Monday 24, the heads of the H4+ agencies (UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, UN Women and the World Bank) had an opportunity to share the progress on the country implementation of the SG’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. Joined by country representatives, as well as representatives of other key constituencies, such as donors and the private sector, partners elaborated on the vision for the next steps of the work.

Ms Tamar Manuelyan Atinc, Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank announced that on October 11, the Day of the Girl Child, the World Bank will launch a financing facility for RMNCH – reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health. She asked people to follow the World Bank's campaign to end poverty on Twitter: #whatwillittake.

The Honorable Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for International Development Cooperation, Sweden – announced an additional US$ 52 million in un-earmarked resources for RMNCH, guided by country plans and programmes. She also spoke of Sweden’s commitment to the post-MDG panel where Sweden will focus on democracy, human rights and empowerment, always promoting active participation of children and youth.

In advance of the session, an op-ed was published in the Global Motherhood Blog hosted by The Huffington Post about the work of the H4+ towards the implementation of the Global Strategy. The H4+ is determined to keep up this momentum through 2015 by strengthening and building new partnerships, and have emphasized their joint commitment by issuing a joint statement.

Tuesday 25th

Every Woman Every Child: The Big Push

At a special dinner hosted by the UN Secretary-General for global leaders, new commitments were announced to spur even greater progress for women's and children's health.

The event gathered leaders from various groups and around the world, including. Commitments cut across the various areas affecting women and children, therefore highlighting the need to work across issues and MDGs for real progress. The commitments went from increased financial support to the promise from countries to stop applying for resources from international institutions and invest their own resources.

Amongst the new commitments announced, Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development (UK), announced that the UK will raise to the agreed 0.7% GDP for foreign aid. The Prime Minister of Norway announced an additional $100 million of investments every year and so did the Minister of International Development Cooperation from Sweden. Director-General Margaret Chan highlighted the importance of working towards the achievement of universal health coverage.

Thursday 27th

Implementation meeting for the Commission on Live-saving commodities

Partners collaborating for the effective implementation of the recommendations of the commission for live-saving commodities met to discuss next steps of the work. WHO is leading on recommendations 4 and 5 and contributing to others, with various departments across the organization participating in these efforts. Participants laid out a framework for country engagement, focusing on advocacy as well as technical support. The intention is to show demonstrable results in the first 6 months.

This requires prioritization, on the number of countries to engage and the specific commodities and recommendations to advance. There was agreement to form a support group to facilitate coordination of the work and communication between working groups. The support group may extend its mandate to facilitate implementation of the Global Strategy more broadly.

A concrete work plan for year one will be finalized before 8 November and all working groups will submit their plans. On 17 October 2012, the President of Nigeria has convened a first meeting to which another seven countries have been invited: Afghanistan, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda. UNFPA is in charge of coordinating inputs to the meeting with support from UNICEF and WHO.

Innovation for health

A number of events had innovation as the focus, highlighting the need to find new solutions to old problems to accelerate progress in women’s and children’s health.

  • Maternal Health Innovations: accelerating access to lifesaving technologies for the women who need them most.
  • Merck and PATHSInnovation Working Group – the role of the private sector in women’s and children’s health: transformative partnerships and innovations.
  • The role of private sector providers in maternal health - Women Deliver and Merck/Merck.

Additional events and discussions

Focus on nutrition

Wednesday 26th - At an event co-organized by Save the Children and World Vision, the two organizations launched the “Nutrition Barometer”, a report to gauge national responses to under nutrition, to provide a snapshot of national government’s commitments and progress in 36 countries with the highest levels of child under nutrition.

Thursday 27th - A high-level meeting on Scale-Up Nutrition hosted by Canada and SUN looked at progress achieved in the two years since the SUN was launched.

The Legacy of a Polio-Free World (Thursday 27th)

World leaders, donors and experts gathered at the United Nations to share the commitment towards continue efforts to hail the “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to eradicate polio. In addition to UN Secretary General, the event gathered many other leaders, including Presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan. WHO’s Director-General, Margaret Chan was joined by other major partners such as Bill Gates on the panel.

Thinking beyond 2015

As partners continue to work together to achieve faster progress towards meeting the MDGs, there is also a realisation that the international community needs to ensure that efforts don’t stop with the deadline of 2015. As a high-level panel has been established by the UN and discussions and consultations are being planned, a number of discussions in the various events reflected the need for coordinated efforts to ensure that health is reflected and considered as a component and determinant of sustainable development.

Linked to these discussions, the Special Issue of the Lancet on Universal health coverage was presented on September 26. The series was facilitated by the Rockefeller Foundation and led by David the Ferranti of the Results for Development Institute in Washington DC. The various commentaries and articles argue that UHC is a development issue. Building on past Lancet series examining health and health systems in various countries, the conclusions support the WHO’s Director-General’s assertion that “universal health coverage is the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer”.

Champions for health and development- Fashion for Development (Mon 24th)

A number of events highlighted the role of champions and ambassadors to raise awareness and visibility of development and health issues. Fashion 4 Development, founded in 1996 with the support of UNESCO, held a First Ladies Luncheon presided by Mrs Ban Ki-moon with leaders and celebrities from the media and fashion industries, who presented various initiatives in support of women’s and children’s health.

Among the various personalities were Tommy Hilgfiger (designer), Mette-Marit, Crown Princess of Norway, Martha Stewart, Mrs. Toyin Saraki (founder of the Wellbeing Foundation in Nigeria), Franca Sozzani (Chief Editor of Vogue Italy) shared with the public their personal experiences and projects on maternal and child health and poverty alleviation.


Dr Flavia Bustreo
Assistant Director-General
Family, Women's and Children's Health
World Health Organization
Telephone: +41 22 791 3309
Fax: +41 22 791 4171
Mobile: +41 7 95 09 06 65